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I've often heard people compare Gotham and Metropolis to New York City in the nighttime and daytime, respectively. However, I've also always felt Gotham was more like Chicago, and I heard that Metropolis is actually based on Cleveland, given that the large, flat harbor in Metropolis is unique to Cleveland. Not to mention Keystone City and Central City being twin cities not unlike St. Paul and Minneapolis -- complete with the subtle classism.

So, do cities in the DC Universe correspond to real world cities? If not, as I suspect there is a New York City in the DC Universe, is there a canonical answer for what real world cities inspired which DC Universe cities?

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    Closely related: Where is Gotham City located? – gnovice Jan 10 '12 at 3:39
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    @gnovice Actually, it was that question which inspired this one! :D – Aarthi Jan 10 '12 at 3:40
  • I added a comment in the Gotham city question that said what I thought were the DC equivelancies. I always thought Gotham City WAS New York. Metropolis was Kansas City, Chicago was Central City and San Francisco was Coast City. – OghmaOsiris Jan 10 '12 at 4:34
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If you refer the map in this answer https://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/5710/1148 you'll see that all of these cities have a place on the map independent of real cities. However, your question reads more wanting to know the original inspiration for the cities.

Metropolis:

Within the DC Universe, Metropolis is portrayed as one of the largest and wealthiest cities on Earth. Since then, Metropolis has become a city inspired by New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. Most of the notable landmarks in Metropolis are based on real-life landmarks in New York City.

Metropolis appears to take elements from many of the largest cities located in North America. This helps to establish itself as perhaps the grandest city. I imagine this is so readers from large cities can both relate to Metropolis, but still be impressed by its grandeur.

Gotham City:

Before Detective Comics #48, Batman's adventures were said to happen in New York City. Gotham is known to be architecturally modeled after New York City, but with exaggerated elements of the styles and derives its name from a sobriquet for that real world city, first popularized by the author Washington Irving in his satirical work Salmagundi (1807).

As the quote says in 1807 Salmagundi nicknamed New York City "Gotham." As a result there are a number of businesses, media outlets, and artists who use the name in association with New York City.

Central City:

In the 1970s, Central City was stated as being located in Ohio, where the real-world city of Athens, Ohio, would be (as shown in Flash #228 in 1974). Bob Rozakis' Ask the Answer Man column also stated that Central City was located in Ohio.

Since Athens is the largest city in Ohio, At least during that time Central City may have been patterned after it.

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  • Nice answer! Are there similar inspirations for Star City et al? – Aarthi Jan 10 '12 at 16:52
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    Star City was supposed to be comparable to either Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington @Aarthi (even though both of those cities also exist in the DC universe) – Monty129 May 19 '13 at 10:50
  • Athens is the largest city in Ohio by what statistics? – dean1957 Feb 14 at 0:41
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About the location of those cities:

In DC Comics Presents #87 (from 1985) - marked as a 'special crisis cross-over' - Superman suddenly finds himself on Earth Prime (supposed to be our real world more or less).

In one of the first panels, he thinks: "New York is sprawled out all over where Gotham is supposed to be... Boston suburbs cover Star City [...]".

Superman in DCCP #87

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  • How can you tell from orbit that New York is all over where Gotham is supposed to be? – Anton Sherwood Feb 14 at 4:19
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Gotham is Manhattan Island, as well as Queens and Kings County New York City.

In current continuity New York City has been used by writers negligibly therefore creating contradictions.

Metropolis at one point in time was most likely Chicago.

Bronze age continuity and beyond places Metropolis in Delaware, and Gotham City in New Jersey apart from each other across the Delaware Bay. Considering how completely different in architecture these two places are, it makes no historical sense for these near cities to be so architecturally different.

Jump City is San Francisco.

Nearly all stories state that the speedsters are from the Sunbelt. Central City and Keystone City are not based a bit on the cities you mentioned. Central City and Keystone City as of most canons are the Kansas Cities.

Star City used to be Boston. As of current continuity Star City is Seattle in Washington. It is a combination of Minneapolis and Chicago with intense influences of Orlando in Florida and Gary in Indiana.

However, it is stated that The Green Arrow and The Flash are less than 600 miles apart. Green Arrow is from Minneapolis for most of his writers.

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  • (Y) Great that you mentioned something while others missed. Star City- Green Arrow. may be you should try citing the sources. – MycrofD Jun 1 '15 at 6:03
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I believe that Metropolis was probably based on Cleveland initially since that's where the creators of Superman are from and it was one of the largest cities in North America at it's inception. Since that time, it has taken on characteristics of other major mid western cities.

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  • The initial comic strips were set specifically in Cleveland, but when the character moved to comic books, Metropolis was created and was always in the US Northeast. The Metropolis skyline was originally modeled after Toronto, and later New York City. In the first story where a state was identified as being the location of metropolis, it was New York. – Keith Morrison Feb 14 at 1:19

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